From Tech to Travel

, Texas Lawyer

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Melissa Frugé's company wouldn't have been possible before the internet boom. Fortunately, Frugé, now the vice president and general counsel of HomeAway Inc., had a front-row seat to the tech revolution, working as a baby lawyer in Silicon Valley then doing outsourced GC work before moving in-house. Now, she juggles legal and regulatory matters around the globe.

HomeAway is an Austin-based public company that generated $280 million in 2012 revenue. It is an online listing of vacation rental properties in more than 150 countries from property owners and managers offering vacation homes to travelers.

"HomeAway is about vacation rentals," Frugé says. "That's our product."

When she joined the company in 2009, she was the only in-house lawyer, and the business had 500 employees. Compare that to a total of six in-house lawyers now and about 1,600 employees.

Frugé says her biggest challenge is keeping up with the company's e-commerce initiatives, such as the company's engagement of a third party to process online payments so that booking a vacation rental with HomeAway is as easy as booking a hotel room online.

"We have offices in nine countries now, and we have to comply with local laws for labor and employment, taxes, [and] contract language, and our websites have to have terms and conditions that are consistent throughout the world, yet meet different countries' consumer laws," she says. "It could make your head spin."

Frugé says she is comfortable with a work schedule where she is often on the phone handling European issues in the morning, U.S. matters during the regular business day and Asian-Pacific activities in the evening.

"There is no way around not working odd hours," she says. "I often work on the weekend, as well."

Frugé grew up in North Hollywood, Calif., where her father, now retired, was a manager for Southern California Edison. Her mother went to college when Frugé was in high school and eventually became a professor. She teaches English and literature at California State University, Northridge.

Frugé graduated from the University of Southern California in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in political science. She drove to Washington D.C., where she had no friends, no job and no place to live.

"I wanted to see if I wanted to be a lawyer," Frugé says. "With a political science degree, I didn't know if I wanted to do something in politics."

She worked as a paralegal at Pepper Hamilton, where she wrote reports about pending legislation for the firm's clients and enjoyed the experience so much she decided to go to law school.

"I got a good understanding of the business of our clients and how business intersected with the law and found that combination very interesting," she says.

Then, she earned a J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law in 1998. She worked at two law firms and two software companies before joining HomeAway. She was corporate counsel for SCO, a computer software company in Santa Cruz, Calif., for about a year before joining DLA Piper's Palo Alto, Calif. office in 1999 as a corporate associate.

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